Tony Phoenix-Morrison or “Tony The Fridge”, as he prefers to be called, is not just a runner with a difference, but an extreme ultra marathon runner with a difference — he runs with a fully functioning fridge of 40 kg on his back. It still has the little ice compartment, though the light is broken.
In 2013 he ran across the UK – from John O’Groats in the Highlands of Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall – covering 1,009 miles with the fridge on his back.
More precisely, the 49-year-old ran 40 marathons in 40 days carrying the 42kg Smeg fridge raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation for cancer research. The regular marathon runner, who ran for about seven hours a day, said he carried the fridge to represent the burden of cancer.
As strange as it sounds, hauling a fridge around is not uncommon in the UK ever since another Tony – Tony Hawks, nicknamed both ‘the fridgeman’ (@thefridgeman) and ‘the fridgehiker’ – took his favourite house appliance (notably his fridge) on a hitchhiking trip around Ireland. He even turned the entire venture in a best-selling book and movie.
On September 12, 2013 Tony the Fridge crossed the finish line of his run across the UK to cheers from supporters, with his seven-year-old son Rocco on his shoulders.
“When I set out I genuinely had no idea how far I’d get. I wanted to try something so hard that nobody could be certain of its outcome. All I could do was try to prepare myself physically and mentally as best I could. At the end of this I feel humbled really. I’ve had so much support and generosity from the British public from the top of Scotland all the way down to the bottom of England.”
“I took the toughest route that you can do — through London. The worst bit was that on day four I fell late at night, I stepped off the road in the darkness. I knocked myself out and broke my left femur. I ran 800 miles with a fractured femur. Hobbled. The whole thing was traumatic from that moment on, it was pure agony.”
The running started as a child, he explains, after his father was killed in a car accident. [quote]“When I got upset, I started to run. When I was running, I never considered where I was going, and I never wanted to look back at where I’d been. I was just in the now, and I found it a way of escaping from the world. I would run thirty plus miles when I was twelve years old.”[/quote]
The fridge came later, in 2011, after he decided that he wanted to raise money for Cancer Research. Unlike many people who undertake these outlandish challenges, he has no acute personal tragedy driving him on. “I wanted to pay tribute to people fighting cancer by taking on this impossible journey with this huge burden, because cancer is like an impossible journey, it is a damn awful burden.”
A fridge was chosen for the prosaic reason that it had no moving parts, and his eight-year-old son thought ‘Tony the Fridge’ was a better nickname than ‘Tony the Oven’. It also helped catch the eye of potential fundraisers.
He first ran with a fridge in the 2011 Great North Run in an attempt to boost sponsorship. Having run the charity half-marathon 15 times before, he said he would not raise much money if “I just ran it, because everyone knows I can run it”. So instead he came up with the novelty of running with a fridge on his back.
He has raised only a relatively modest amount of money, considering the pain endured. He estimates it totals £103,000 — a big sum, but not much more than £100 for every mile he has run with 42kg on his back.
There are many things that make running a marathon with a 6st 10lb (42kg) fridge strapped to your back difficult. But possibly one of the hardest thing of all is stopping. When you straighten up, you tend to topple backwards — pulled to the ground by the ludicrous weight of the electrical appliance. The only way to stay upright is to lean forward.
Sir Bobby Robson’s son, Mark, said: [quote]”Tony’s just incredible. What strikes me most about him is his mental strength. That kind of perseverance and determination is exceptional really. Anyone who has been kind enough to sponsor him will know he’s pushed himself to the limit to raise funds for the foundation.”[/quote]
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation funds research which directly benefits cancer patients across the north east and Cumbria, and which contributes significantly to international studies into the disease.